I’ve been hearing and seeing a lot of discussion of the “selfie” phenomenon online the last few months. Selfies — self-photographs, for those not up on the lingo — have certainly become a lot more popular of late. I take my fair share myself, which is an odd development for someone who once loathed having his picture taken. Oh well.
I have a hard time seeing selfies as a bad thing, really. I think their explosion springs from a couple of sources: first, the fact that everyone now walks around with a camera on them at all times, thanks to their cell phones. I remember when cameras in phones was the newest thing, and now…aside from those cheap “Makes calls only” phones you see advertised in Parade Magazine — the cheap ones geared to people who literally don’t want to do anything other than make calls with their phones — do they even make standard phones without cameras in them? No idea. Anyway, a camera is no longer something you have to choose to take with you when you go someplace. It’s no longer a case of, “Hey, we’re going to Mount Rushmore today! Make sure you pack the camera!” So there’s that.
Secondly, I think that selfies are a natural reaction to something that was said of the Internet for years: that as a primarily text-driven medium, it was often hard to discern mood and temperament just via the words on the screen. A joking tone might be missed entirely, and getting to “know” someone without ever seeing their face always had an incomplete feeling. There was a layer of opacity, created by the Internet, through which it could be hard to really determine what a person was like. Not that everybody is pasting selfies to every thing they say, but I do think that as the Internet becomes more and more of a social thing — and by “Internet” I also mean all the various social networking doodads that are primarily used on mobile devices — it becomes easier and easier, and this more and more common, to include photos of oneself in one’s various interactions.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on selfies. Well, not quite: I’m not sure why more folks don’t use their camera app’s self-timers, opting instead to photograph their own mirrored reflections, I don’t understand the whole “duckface” thing, and really, when you think about it, “selfie” is a kind of goofy word. I think there’s a study to be done of the Internet’s tendency to reduce its lingo to the shortest possible words, often making up new words entirely if there’s not already a short-enough word to do the job.
And no, I’m not including a selfie in this post. Just because.